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OpinionsIndia-Maldives ties: Turbulence in paradise

India-Maldives ties: Turbulence in paradise


A recent series of reckless events, triggered by political shifts in the Maldives, has cast shadows over the long-standing friendship

shambhawi tiwari

In the realm of idyllic beaches, where nations often showcase international camaraderie, a storm is brewing in the relationship between India and the Maldives. The Maldives, renowned globally for its pristine beaches, finds itself in the midst of a development surge on Lakshadweep, leaving India looking on with a touch of envy. This sentiment encapsulates the current India-Maldives controversy, shedding light on a relationship that has historically been characterized by mutual support and collaboration.

India has long been a key contributor to the Maldives' tourism industry, constituting nearly 11.8% of the market share in 2023. The two nations share a history of mutual assistance, exemplified during the 2004 Tsunami when India was the first to extend a helping hand. In the domain of security, joint defense exercises such as Ekuverin, Dosti, Ekatha, and Operation Shield underline the strategic partnership between the two nations. Both India and the Maldives play pivotal roles in securing the Indian Ocean region, aligning with the broader SAGAR vision. Notably, a 2021 agreement named Uthuru Thila Falhu signifies their joint commitment to developing the Force Coast Guard Harbour.

India's support extends beyond tourism and security, encompassing infrastructure development in and . India is a consistent pillar of support for the Maldives, evident in the ongoing Greater Male Development Project and the Hanimaadhoo International Airport Development initiative. In 2022, the National College for Policing and Law Enforcement (NCPLE) was inaugurated in the Maldives by the Indian External Affairs Minister, solidifying their commitment to education and institutional development.

However, the harmony in India-Maldives ties has recently hit a rough patch, coinciding with the election of the Maldives' new president. President Muizzu's “India Out” campaign has raised concerns, particularly as he broke tradition by visiting Turkey and China before New Delhi. The president's persistence in pressuring India to evacuate military personnel and the Maldives' participation in China's One Belt One Road initiative have strained relations further.

The controversy took an unexpected turn when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's social media posts promoting Lakshadweep tourism inadvertently triggered an international dispute. The posts, highlighting domestic tourism and economic development, lacked any explicit mention of India-Maldives friendship. In response, three Maldivian deputy ministers labeled Prime Minister Modi as a ‘clown' and made derogatory remarks about India. The fallout resulted in the suspension of these ministers and the emergence of the ‘#BoycottMaldives' hashtag on Indian social media platforms.

This digital backlash took a toll on Maldives' tourism industry, with reports of canceled trips and a shift in focus by tour and travel companies from Maldives to Lakshadweep. The ripple effect reached the hotel industry, with numerous cancellations reported on popular booking platforms.

As the region witnesses multiple elections this year, India faces the imperative of safeguarding the fundamental framework of bilateral ties and regional stability. The Quad's Blue Dot initiative offers a potential counterbalance to China's One Belt One Road, requiring coordination with stakeholders like the United States and Australia in the Indian Ocean region for trade and defense purposes. In this evolving scenario, maintaining consistency in international relations and diplomatic finesse becomes paramount for India to navigate the stormy waters of the India-Maldives controversy.


(The writer is lecturer of law at Sanskriti University; views are personal)




The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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